Sophie Fontanel poses naked and fighting against the invisibility of the body of women after 50 years

Sophie Fontanel poses naked and fighting against the invisibility of the body of women after 50 years

SocietyThe 59-year-old journalist did not hesitate to pose naked in a major French women's magazine. Encounter.


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It all started the day Sophie Fontanel decided to stop dyeing her hair and let it turn gray. This moment of self-acceptance - and by extension of acceptance of her age - was decisive for the writer and journalist, who then established herself as a figurehead of anti-ageism, this movement fighting against the invisibilization and discrimination affecting people over 50. Today, Sophie Fontanel completely assumes her age, and proudly displays the signs on Instagram. A small revolution, especially for a figure in the world of fashion in France.

Because if the industry today wants to be more inclusive, the question of age remains indeed taboo. We know, however, that no one escapes the passage of time, but young women dread like the plague the day when they will no longer be young. And very few mature women make the cover of magazines, which is a shame because they are no less beautiful, on the contrary. Experience gives them elegance.

Age rhymes with elegance

The fact is that women have a serious problem with aging. And this is not just for those approaching their fifties. Just look at the number of anti-aging products adopted by 30-somethings today. Is ageism just a patriarchal injunction? Wouldn't women also feed it in their own way?

Sophie Fontanel is a lone wolf and a pioneer in the field. The writer is now famous not only for her pen, but also for her status as an anti-ageist influencer. Author of several award-winning novels, she now has more than 260,000 Instagram followers, for whom she deciphers fashion and cultural news. But it's her casual selfies, where she flaunts her latest finds and her famous gray hair, that made her famous. Sophie Fontanel seems on her way to freeing a whole generation of women from these toxic injunctions to dye their hair white or gray. And while she cites her British Vogue colleague, Sarah Harris, as a source of inspiration, her approach to the "going gray" movement is nonetheless quite unique.

In her latest novel, La Capitale de la Douceur, released last week, the writer invites you to cultivate your self-esteem through nudity. "I had this idea when I visited a small island off the Mediterranean coast: it gives its name to the book", explains Sophie Fontanel. “In the 1920s, a community of naturists settled there and built hundreds of houses and a sanctuary devoted to heliotropism, a belief in the healing power of the sun on the naked body”. Later, the French army seized the island and converted it into a military base. Today, only 5% of the island is occupied by naturists. “This place seemed to me like a reflection of the world we live in: 5% gentleness surrounded by 95% violence and harshness. What to do with this precious and rare sweetness? How can we channel it?”

Sophie Fontanel posing nude and wrestling 'invisibilization of women's bodies after 50

For Sophie Fontanel, this analogy with violence goes beyond militarism or war. Violence, she says, permeates the way we view our own bodies. Granddaughter of Armenian immigrants, the writer remembers the education she received. She was told that gentleness is the best way to be accepted and to feel like it. Sophie Fontanel will however be the victim of a traumatic event which will prevent her from fully living this principle. At 16, she was raped by a boy she met in a nightclub. “At that time, I didn't even know what 'flirting' meant. I was not prepared, I could not understand this violence. This wound remains anchored deep within me”. Marked forever by this rape, Sophie Fontanel recounts having sought, for many years, to make peace with the past and with her body. "When the word started to break free with #MeToo, you had to 'swing your pig'. This is what the movement was called in France. Violence was treated with violence. Personally, I prefer to say #MeToo, because I believe that violence must be stemmed by messages of solidarity and non-violence”.

When her novel came out, Sophie Fontanel decided to pose nude in Elle. Jovial and intimate, the photos celebrate self-acceptance and are intended to fight against ageism. According to Sophie Fontanel, it is endemic in France. This country loves women, she explains, but it puts them on a pedestal if and only if they are young and thus meet the standards of beauty.

Ageism is of course very present abroad, admits Sophie Fontanel, but it is particularly violent in Paris: “The French are obsessed with sex appeal. The DNA of Paris is the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower... and sex”. But the notion of sex appeal changes with age... "Someone once said to me: 'If you can't wear mini-skirts anymore, who will want to push you against a wall and have sex with you? ?”. Well, sorry, but I don't want to be pinned against a wall. And courtship should be a little different, right? Especially at my age… The problem is that women are desired as objects”.

Issues related to toxic masculinity have been discussed in the media for a few years. But, according to Sophie Fontanel, French women often remain complicit in their object status: “We suffer because we are considered sexual objects, but as soon as we get older, we are upset that we are no longer considered that way” . The journalist suggests that we should have other models of femininity from the start. The Anglo-Saxon world is full of women who come to terms with their age: “For example, Diane Keaton in the 2003 film Anything Can Happen. Or the androgynous David Bowie or Mick Jagger, if you want to break gender barriers. And then, think of all those elegant women who don't care about their age and who walk around in rubber boots in the English countryside”.

Were Sophie Fontanel's nude photos well received? “Overall yes, but it remains mixed,” replies the journalist. “I received lots of messages of encouragement, from men and women, but I also received messages of indignation”, says Sophie Fontanel, regretting that they come mainly from women. An Instagram subscriber, for example, wrote to him: “I am the same age as you. I'm pretty well preserved and I'm not ashamed of my body, but I have a hard time understanding why you took these photos. I do not understand this exhibitionism and this shamelessness. Another wrote to her that she was “ridiculous” and that she was losing “all her credibility by wanting to free herself”. "What's the use?" said another. "Why?", "Why did you do that?", we wrote to him a good couple of times. "Well, why not?" replies Sophie Fontanel.

Sophie Fontanel - Capital of Sweetness

€17Editions Seghers via uculture.frBuy now

Translation by Lyse Leroy

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